Use Content Marketing to Establish B2B Thought Leadership

Online Thought LeaderAt our company, my team and I have the pleasure of being involved in a lot of content creation, curation and propagation initiatives. Sometimes, a company is new to content marketing and sees the benefits of being a thought leader/branded authority but they aren’t sure how to get there. In other cases, the company has taken some initial steps towards thought leadership but has plateaued and wants to get to the next level. Either way, there are are six essential questions about content marketing that need to be answered before you get too far along the path.

  1. Can we be industry thought leaders?see the benefits of being a thought leader/branded authority but aren’t sure how to get there.
  2. If so, what do we talk about?
  3. Can we create enough quality content?
  4. How do we get people to read our content?
  5. How do we get people to engage with our company?
  6. How do we measure results and get better over time?

Great questions, yes? The first three should determine your go vs. no-go content marketing strategy and the second three how to make it happen assuming the decision to proceed is affirmative. I’ll cover the first three questions in this article and the final three in the next.

Can we be industry thought leaders? First of all, is it you who is going to be the thought leader, is it several individuals in your company, or is it the company itself? And do you have enough knowledge and stature to be a credible industry spokesperson? By the way, the fact that you don’t have these attributes going in isn’t a show stopper. There have been many cases of individuals who are relatively unknown who emerge within a year or two as well-followed and well-respected industry opinion leaders.

What do we talk about? This is the key question. As mentioned above, you need to have “perceived” expertise in a specific area (hopefully backed up by genuine expertise). However this must be matched by another factor: There must be a sufficient enough number of people interested in your topic area that are willing to read or listen to what you have to say; and this audience should provide real business value. In the business world, it is not enough that people find you interesting – you want them to engage and either buy something or encourage others to do so.

Assuming you have the critical audience numbers, try to avoid the temptation to be just another voice spouting the same content. While this may seem like a safe path, it is rarely a good idea to be perceived as just like your competitors. You need to create a perception of differentiation. To establish yourself and/or your company as a branded authority, you will first have to decide the breadth of your focus. Marketing yourself with a very broad focus (e.g. general practitioner) is a different proposition than a narrow niche focus (e.g. specialist). There is truth to the statement, “the riches are in niches” and across most industries, those who have a reputation for specialization earn more and face less competitive pressure.

How do we create enough quality content? Let’s talk about your options for quantity and quality of content. People naturally feel angst about creating a steady stream of fresh worthy content. As a book author and eight-year blogger, I agree – this is not easy. You may need to opt either for a more consistent flow of okay (decent) content or go for a model where you produce fewer pieces of content of higher quality. A good example of this is the type of evergreen content I write for CustomerThink – in-depth articles of 1000-1500 words that are meant to be “evergreen.” By this I mean the content will still be valid and useful for years to come.

An alternative to creating your own content is to become a content curator. Content curation is the process of discovering, compiling and propagating (sharing) content in a particular subject area. The key is to present content that is fresh, relevant and high quality. Many content curators present externally discovered content alongside their own. For example, our GreatB2BMarketing blog not only contains my original posts but also a “Guest Experts” section where we reproduce articles from smart people in the B2B marketing industry.

You can either create (or curate) the content yourself or hire consultants to do this for you – but either way, don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort required. Fortunately, there are some useful (and sometimes free) tools to help you either find ideas for original content or curate third-party content.

Content Marketing Tools:

Buzzsumo: Very easy to use and free. Just input your search term and Buzzsumo shows you the top content in terms of engagement and shares. This tool will help you find topic areas that have high potential marketplace interest.

Buzzsumo

Quora: This is a question and answer site to learn about what people are talking and writing about. As with Buzzsumo, you simply type your search term and Quora will show you all the content on that particular subject. You can also ask your own questions and get answers from a wide variety of experts (and not-so-much experts).

Hashtagify: While primarily used for Twitter marketing, you can use Hashtagify to find great keyword ideas for keywords to use in your blog posts. For example, the top hastags identified when you start with “B2B Marketing” are: sales, digital marketing, content marketing, marketing, SMM and CMO.

SEMrush: This is a great tool for figuring out what your website (and your competitors’ sites) really looks like to search engines in terms of organic and paid search. This will give you some ideas not only for articles and blogs, but also helps to ensure that your website content portrays your core message.

Hootsuite: Hootsuite is well known as a social media management program but you can also use it to track what industry leaders are saying about a particular topic or series of topics. This can be a great source for tracking and socializing curated content.

For more thoughts about B2B content marketing, read my recent CustomerThink article titled, 6 Keys to Transform Your Marketing Content from Subpar to Superior. And stay tuned for my next post where I will answer the final three questions about content marketing and content curation.

6 key Rules to Expand Your B2B Marketing Influence

Marketing Influence NetworkingMarketing influence is a timeless subject but the ways we capture and communicate are constantly evolving. I originally wrote about this subject in 2011 and updated the material for my 2015 book, Winning B2B Marketing . And whether you are a one-person consulting shop, work for a mega corporation, or anything in between, you need to constantly expand your Circle of Marketing Influence.

Starting with your organization at the core, everyone that you can possibly do business with can be pinpointed somewhere in relation to the center.  As those individuals in the outer reaches of our marketing influence are brought closer, they become part of your inner circle. Those nearest to the core are friends, former colleagues, loyal customers, prospects in an active sales cycle and others you have direct influence on. Those farthest away comprise your total addressable market (TAM) but many or most of them may not even know that you exist.

Traditional lead-to-revenue (L2R) models track this movement through the marketing and sales sequence using terminology such as suspects, leads, qualified prospects, opportunities and customers. The idea is to locate individual suspects in the larger universe (TAM) and convince them to engage and then make a purchase. By contrast, in today’s pull marketing world, the idea is to broadcast powerful and consistent messages to the cyber universe and give people good reasons to engage with you. The key point is that prospects choose to engage with you – you do not have to chase after them. And they are much more likely to engage if they are already in your sphere of influence.

Over time, the inner- and middle circles grow as people become closer to you. Because you are providing the right message at the right time, people are educating themselves and they willingly engage – not because of the persistence and brilliance of your sales people and you pushing yourself on them, but rather because they actually need your products or services and are searching for a solution. The complexity of the sales process decreases, the sales cycle shrinks and your close rate goes up. This is what we call a winning trifecta!

Let’s take a look at how the circle of influence relates to your business.  The Inner circle is comprised of your key influence group including employees, partners, customers, active prospects, personal contacts, and blog contributors. The Middle circle is the moderate influence group and includes contact lists, blog readers, suspects, social media followers, group members (e.g. LinkedIn), affiliates, industry experts, press, and analysts. The Outer circle is the low influence group and includes your potential prospect universe/TAM including email lists, direct marketing lists, occasional blog readers, media readers, and suspects.

The Starting Point: Where you are today Marketing Influence Before

This first graphic shows where you may be in your current evolution as a company or individual, particularly if you are in a fairly new business. Sadly, even some older companies have a small circle of marketing influence. In this case, the size of your inner circle and contact lists are small in relation to the entire prospect universe (total addressable market). And it is also true that marketing is usually more expensive at this stage (relatively speaking) because you often have to spend marketing funds to first educate suspects before turning them into prospects. In fact, even though your goal is to build a strong push model, it may be necessary to do a fair amount of push marketing at this stage.

The End Game: Where you are going

Marketing Influence AfterThis second graphic illustrates the impact of how your consistent marketing and targeted outreach efforts will help you grow the number of key influencers and moderate influencers. Over time, these parts of the circle of influence will become a rich source of low-cost qualified prospects and customers. Also important to your fiscal health – your marketing campaigns can evolve from push marketing to pull marketing and you will generate leads and new customers at a much lower acquisition cost. In our practice we’ve seen the impact of building up the marketing influence database as it results in a two-third reduction in cost-per-lead over a two year period.

Rules for Expanding Your Circle of Influence

We’ve talked about the why, let’s now discuss the how. Follow these six rules to expand your marketing influence.

  1. Be intentional.  Amazing how I meet someone who has 300 LinkedIn contacts and they tell me their goal is to expand their network to produce better results. My advice to that person is to start today and add relevant connections throughout the year, with a goal of 500 connections (adding one per business day). A year later, I look at their profile and they have 320 connections. I call these accidental connections because a few people will connect even if you take no action.
  2. Be methodical. Expanding your circle of influence takes time and a bit of work, but not so much time or effort if you spread the effort out. To start, block 2-3 hours per week on your calendar to devote exclusively to social media and network building. The investment will take a bit of time to pay off, but it will pay off.
  3. Be available. Don’t ignore your network and then scramble to catch up when you need something. We all have those people in our lives who only reach out when they want something (job, reference, etc.) but are otherwise silent.
  4. Be valuable. If you have content to share, make sure it’s the good stuff not just a rehash of what everyone else is offering. Not to say that you need to give away your trade secrets but it is usually better to offer something unique.
  5. Be generous. Following up on the previous rule, you should willingly share information, references, comments, compliments, congratulations and so forth. You are planting seeds for the future.  Just like with real seeds, some will produce fruit and some will fall on barren ground. The point is that you have no idea which seeds are which – so do not try to be Machiavellian about your networking. If you are available and add value to enough people, you will gain in return. That’s the way life works, both at home and the office.
  6. Be realistic. Good networking is about quality of communication but it is also about quantity. If you wait until the perfect opportunity to reach out, you may have to wait a long time. The point is to communicate often enough to remain top of mind (without being annoying).

The Circle of Marketing Influence is an excellent way to remember that your mission in B2B marketing is to continually expand the number of people who know what you do and why you are the obvious choice in your market.

Porter Gale wrote a book titled “Your network is Your Net Worth”.The title really says it all.  Build your network, expand your influence and reap the benefits.

Boost Revenue with the Right B2B Marketing Funnel

Marketing FunnelOne of the most important decisions to be made when designing a lead-to-revenue (L2R) strategy is the type of B2B marketing funnel model to support your revenue goals. There are lots of permutations but fundamentally, it comes down to a choice between two major flavors: wide or narrow funnel. I’ve talked to CEO’s who want a large number high-quality leads at a low cost-per-lead. While this sounds great in theory, there is almost always a trade-off between quantity and quality – unless you are willing to spend exorbitant sums to achieve this goal.

Let’s explain by taking a closer look at the two funnel models. Note that I have simplified the number of steps involved but this should still give you the idea.B2B Marketing Funnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wide Funnel – Type A: As the graphic illustrates, this type of funnel is designed to create lots of activity early in the lead-to-revenue process by casting a wider net. The goal is to get lots of suspects to opt-in, and use personal (usually telephone) or automated methods to qualify suspects and turn them into prospects. You ask for very little information (e.g. name and email address) in order to encourage response and your content offer is targeted at those who are earlier in their buyer’s journey. In this model, you attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff after the opt-in.

Narrow Funnel – Type B: This funnel model is narrow at the top, because the goal is to generate fewer opt-ins – but with a much higher average quality than type A. To accomplish this, you offer content that is useful for prospects that are closer to a buying decision and you ask for lots of information from the prospect. This will definitely reduce response from those who are early in the buyer’s journey and in this model, you attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff before the opt-in.

Note what the two B2B marketing funnels have in common. First, you still have to go through the same qualification and selling steps and once the leads are qualified, you should achieve the same conversion metrics with either model. In other words, you can be just as productive with either model from a revenue standpoint. Second, the costs to fill the top of the funnel may be the same with either model, although you can save some expense because of the reduced cost of personal lead qualification on the narrow funnel.

Funnel B has the advantage of keeping your inside and direct sales reps focused on prospects that are more likely to buy in the short-term. This is because you are using your marketing messaging and opt-in process to discourage those not currently in the market for your products or services. However, the narrow funnel has a huge disadvantage – you don’t get to keep talking to the people who opted-in but were not yet ready to engage.

Using the examples above – if you implement Funnel B, there are 600 inquiries that you don’t get a chance to nurture and convert into qualified leads at a later date. And remember, once you have paid for the initial acquisition, you can often convert these prospects into opportunities at little or no cost. Our experience shows that you can often get another 50-75% sales downstream from the pool of those not ready to engage in the short-term. Again, using the above numbers, this would cost you another 10-15 sales.

So which B2B Marketing funnel is right for you? For the reasons mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs, I usually recommend the wide funnel (type A), but there are exceptions. Best to carefully consider the ramifications of each approach and make the right decision before you lock in your marketing programs.

How Digital Marketing Can Drive Your B2B Company Results

Digital MarketingI suspect that two types of people will read this article. The first group consists of those who are fairly new to digital marketing. They need to understand how they can benefit and a few tips to get started. The second group consists of those who are participating in digital marketing, but need to improve their results. This may require a bit of tweaking or a major re-work of their strategy.

So, what can digital marketing do for you and why is it worth spending your precious time and budget? Assuming you do it right, digital marketing can:

  1. Build your company credibility. In most B2B industries, prospects check out a company online before engaging, let alone buying. You have a chance to establish the online presence that either adds to, or subtracts from, the strength of your brand. And if things get off track, you can use reputation management techniques to help restore your brand value. One important point about an online presence: If you are going to go, go BIG. There is a lot of “me-too” out there and you need some compelling differentiation to cut through the clutter.
  2. Generate leads and revenue at low cost. If you are going to compete with larger players, you need to play the digital marketing game as well as they do. This means capturing the email addresses of your prospects and customers, or getting them to follow you on Facebook, LinkedIn or one of the other interactive social media platforms.
  3. Shorten the sales cycle. B2B companies that have complex and/or long sales cycles have found digital marketing to be enormously helpful in saving the time of their reps and improving sales conversion rates. For more on this topic, read my article about Six Ways to Shorten the Sales Cycle. More good news: The same techniques that shorten the sales cycle can give you the added benefit of lowering your customer acquisition cost (CaC).
  4. Create awareness. You can’t win business from those that don’t know you exist. The cyber world is vast, amorphous, chaotic and constantly changing. You have to grab—and hold—your share of the attention to succeed. Many successful online companies started out as local firms with a very limited market reach. And many small- to mid-size companies have grabbed market share from larger competitors because of their aggressive and effective use of digital marketing.
  5. Provide anywhere and anytime access. Just a few years ago, mobile access was something of an afterthought. You built your website for desktop and laptop viewers and then figured out how to make it mobile-friendly. However, we are now seeing prospects and customers utilizing mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) at the rate of 1/3 to 1/2 of total views in some industries. The key to making this work for you is to provide a website that is both mobile-responsive and full of the type of information necessary to move prospects closer to a buying decision.
  6. Give you a great testing platform. Want to test a new message, product viability or landing page? Digital marketing techniques like SEO, pay-per-click or online advertising can quickly test your marketplace receptivity. The idea is to test quickly, abandon what doesn’t work and scale what does work.

The reality every B2B company faces is that consumer and business expectations are increasing. It is easier than ever for prospects to find your competitors if you don’t offer them a productive and pleasant online experience. For our clients, we complete something called a website and social media analysis to find out what digital marketing actions they need to take to surpass competitors. This type of analysis can be a good jumping off point to get you on the right path to digital marketing success.

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7 Lessons Learned in 7 Years of Blogging

BloggingI started my blogging journey at Great B2B Marketing seven years ago this month. It’s been quite an adventure and like anything someone does for seven years (and over 250 posts), there are some useful lessons learned along the path.

  1. Persistence is key. Blogging can be a pain to be sure, but it really does get easier over time. I often tell clients that are new to blogging that it might seem like pushing a boulder uphill in the short-term but a post that takes you three hours to draft today can be completed in 90 minutes once you’ve done it a dozen times.
  2. Posting something is better than nothing. Voltaire’s quote, “The perfect is the enemy of the good” applies to blogging. You’re not Shakespeare and you’re not Hemingway. You (and I) are just business people with a unique message to share. This is not to say that you should throw quality standards out the window. Be clear, be clean and be helpful and every once in a while, one of your posts can go viral. But you need to put your content in play for it to be seen by anyone. In other words: No excuses – just do it!
  3. Be bold, fresh and relevant. It is tempting to write about stuff that has been around for some time, but you will get way more attention if you find a fresh angle to a topic of current interest. And make sure you are adding real value, not just rehashing what the reader can learn at a dozen other websites.
  4. Add a dose of personality. While you need to stay businesslike, readers want to know they are hearing from someone who is likeable and forthright. A bit of humor and irreverence is good but don’t overdo this to the point you turn off your audience. Most important: be yourself. Your unique voice is what people want to hear.
  5. Remain consistent. Consistency is important in two ways. First, in terms of your content. You want to be known for one or a couple of topic areas (in my case, B2B marketing and lead-to-revenue), not for having an opinion about everything. Consistency area two is to set a workable blogging schedule and stick to it. Resist the urge to post a bunch of blogs in a short time period. I call this a flame-out – when a company posts 3-6 blogs in a span of a few weeks, and then stops posting. It looks unprofessional. Instead, set a reasonable schedule (even 1-2 times per month is okay to start) and stick to this relentlessly. You can pick up the pace as your comfort level increases.
  6. Pay attention to the critical details. Writing the content is the hard part but there are a few things you can do to drive more attention, including:
    1. Add a relevant image. Images are important for search purposes and to grab reader attention. Please be sure to license the image or get permission for its use.
    2. Always add categories, tags and meta descriptions. This will make your post easier to find. Click here for a great article on how to craft effective meta descriptions. As an example, here is the meta description I used for this post: “Follow these seven lessons to ensure blogging success in terms of readership and impact”.
    3. Cite your sources. You can certainly use a few words or sentences from someone else’s material without permission, but make sure you acknowledge the source.
    4. Utilize an editor. I don’t care how good of a writer you are – you can probably benefit from a second pair of eyes for issues like typos, grammar and readability.
  7. Borrow from smart people. You will be faced with situations when you can’t think of something to write about (join the club!). In this case, find someone else’s article that appeals to you and base your post on this person’s content. Of course, if you are copying entire sections of material, it is best to get permission. Authors love to have you re-purpose their writing and this is a great way to make a new business contact.

 

Hard Facts About B2B Marketing and Sales

Hard Facts about Marketing

One of the most frustrating things about being a B2B marketing and/or sales professional is that there are circumstances and environmental factors totally outside your control. Ive seen truly great people seemingly stuck in situations where they are set up for failure.

Medium.com had an interesting article from Larry Kim titled “11 Things You Can’t Change, So Quit Wasting Your Time Trying.” Kim stated that no matter the method you use (e.g., working harder, caring more), “The fact is, there are some things you just cant change, no matter how hard you try.” I enjoyed the article because it reflects a hard truth I teach future entrepreneurs in my SBA and SCORE classes — to stay within their own zone of control.

This below graphic illustrates the zone of control. At the bottom is a list of a few of the things you have total personal control over. For example, you decide how hard you work and the skills you will develop to enhance your marketplace value. The middle section contains items you can influence but not necessarily control, like the overall messaging, your budget, and your boss. The outer circle consists of items you have little or no control over: The economy, technology, government, etc., are going where they are going and chances are, you have no opportunity to impact them. In other words, if the train is heading in a certain direction, you had best either hop on or watch it pass, instead of standing in front of it.

Zone of Marketing Control

So, hard fact number one is that you should operate in your zones of control and influence. Here are some additional facts that B2B marketing and sales professionals must face:

1.     It’s usually not personal. When the CEO criticizes the new website design, or the VP of sales complains about the lack (or quality) of leads, they have their own reasons that are usually not connected to personal animosity toward you. Disliking your performance on something is not the same as disliking you.

2.     You can’t always win. There are scenarios where the odds are so stacked against you, you are unlikely to achieve success. For example:

a.     A flawed business model that is not financially viable.

b.     An un-coachable owner/CEO who would rather be right than successful (sadly, there are such individuals).

c.      A product that is deeply flawed and/or not ready for the market.

d.     A highly dysfunctional management team.  

3.     You should quit focusing on the ones that got away. All of us who have been in marketing or sales for any length of time understand that no matter how talented/clever we are, many prospects will say no to even our best offers. Best you reconcile yourself to this to avoid undue anxiety.

4.     Life is not fair. If your mom or dad taught you this lesson early in your life, you should thank them. Attaching yourself emotionally to a certain outcome means that you will spend at least some of your time in a dark place.

5.     Great strategy won’t produce results without cooperation. I’ve seen brilliant concepts that could produce significant revenue shot down because of the unreasonableness of one or more parties. Regardless of motivation of the stubborn party, when you are faced with this situation, it’s sometimes best to cut your losses and move to the next idea.

You no doubt have your own list of unpleasant facts. I hope you accept them, and do what you need to do to have a healthy and prosperous 2017.

B2B Marketing Trends – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Fusion Marketing Partners State of the Industry Report Trends in B2B Marketing and Lead to RevenueWe just published our 2017 B2B Marketing and Lead-to-Revenue Trends Report, available for download here. At the close of each calendar year, I publish a trends report detailing what our team sees as the important topics in B2B marketing and L2R. This year, in addition to our personal analysis, we’ve included data from 1425 respondents who work in B2B marketing and sales, the majority (62%) of which are at the VP level or above. We’ve also cross-validated this information with data and opinions from noted industry analysts and thought leaders. We found remarkable similarity between survey responses, what industry leaders like Forrester, Gartner and Forbes are saying and our own experiences and data from client engagements. We are also grateful to our survey partner CustomerThink for helping us to get the word out to their large subscriber base.

So what are the big takeaways from this initiative? For one thing, a majority of companies report that they are not generating enough leads to meet their revenue targets. Probably no big surprise – I’ve worked at companies where lead flow was strong and yet, people were complaining about a “lack of leads”.  What they mean is that they want their leads to be qualified and ready to purchase in the near future. This is the inevitable tension between lead quantity and lead quality. It’s fine to have plenty of lead flow, but not so fine if the vast majority of inbound inquiries are unqualified and will never buy what you are selling.

Another disconcerting result is that 62 percent of respondents report that their companies spend less than 10 percent of revenue on marketing (including personnel, technology and program expenses). There is no doubt that the strongest and most profitable companies drive growth through compelling and relentless marketing. If you truly believe (and I hope you do) that marketing has a big impact on revenue, you are doing your company a favor by helping them invest in an area that will have many positive benefits downstream.

Our survey also showed that companies will increase 2017 spending on two key areas that impact growth: marketing automation technology and content marketing.  Some of us are already fully engaged in these practices and are now in optimization mode, but a surprising number of companies are still taking baby steps. Regardless, smart companies invest in what works and try to get there before the competition does.

Finally, what are your peers and competitors most interested in measuring in 2017? Given a long list of potential KPIs, our survey respondents say they are focusing on these three, in priority order:

  1. Tracking sales performance (e.g. close rates) – 76.27 percent of respondents.
  2. Qualified lead conversions – 64 percent of respondents.
  3. Measuring website performance – 53 percent of respondents.

While it’s too late for you to take the survey, you can review the results by downloading the report. We designed the survey and report to provide you with actionable information and help you improve what you are doing in B2B marketing and sales. Most importantly, it is my hope and expectation that you will have a better 2017 than 2016.

In B2B Marketing, the CFO May Be Your Most Important Customer

CFO MarketingMany B2B marketing managers believe that their primary customer is the Sales VP, or perhaps the end-customer, or even the CEO. While these are very important constituencies, you shouldn’t forget the person who may have the most influence over your career – the CFO.

My last blog post talked about how to get your share of the 2017 marketing budget, using several different budget allocation methods. However, none of these methods will work unless the CFO has faith that whatever you are spending contributes to revenue. This is what I call the “marketing as investment” model, instead of the traditional “marketing as expense” model.

Here are some things you don’t want your CFO to say to the CEO about you or your department:

  • Those guys spend a lot of money but I have no idea what they are accomplishing.
  • Why should we give marketing more budget if they can’t show better results?
  • Why is the sales team always complaining about the marketing department?
  • We have to cut the budget – let’s start with marketing since they are such a large expense.
  • Every time I ask marketing what they are doing, I hear a bunch of gobbledygook!

To make sure this type of language is never used to describe you, let’s look at what CFOs are looking for from their marketing departments. As you can see, four out of the top-six goals relate directly to measuring the effectiveness of B2B marketing spend and activities as a driver of sales pipeline and revenue.

CFO Marketing Survey

Note that the fourth goal listed is to achieve non-financial goals (i.e. brand awareness) but even here I would argue that the reason we spend time building the brand is to make it easier to achieve revenue. I’ve never met a CEO or CFO that would trade some of their revenue for a stronger brand (or for almost anything else). In the end, it comes down to the marketing department’s ability to increase awareness, generate leads and facilitate sales, all in the pursuit of more (profitable) revenue.

So how do you impress your CFO and ensure not only a favorable impression but more important, the necessary funds to accomplish your mission? Here are four strategies:

  1. Understand your customer.  Most CFOs have a set of challenges and objectives that are not the same as yours. See the world from their perspective and you are more likely to win the perception game.
  2. Tightly align with sales. Creating a service level agreement (SLA) to outline the processes, expectations and deliverables of both departments – will go a long way towards satisfying both the CFO and CEO. Chances are, if the sales team is happy with marketing, the executive suite will likewise be happy.
  3. Revenue…revenue…revenue. Whenever you can do so, shift the focus of the discussion from activities (expenses) to revenue (investment). Investments in revenue are much more palatable than increases in spending, so modify your language accordingly.
  4. Measure what matters. As a B2B marketer, you no doubt understand the importance of capturing all types of performance metrics. But the ones that matter most to the CFO will all point to how what you do, and what you spend, contribute to revenue. That is why our lead-to-revenue (L2R) modeling process always starts with revenue targets and works backward to set goals for inquiries, awareness, website traffic, and so forth.  

 I’ve worked with a couple of CFOs that had such a fundamental misunderstanding that they never could see the value in what their marketing department did. Fortunately, these types are not common and if you follow the above advice, you will not only have a more satisfactory working life but also a much healthier marketing budget.   

Secure Your Share of Rising B2B Marketing Budgets

Marketing BudgetThe press release announcing Gartner’s 2016-2017 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Spend Survey showed that marketing budgets rose for the third straight year.  Marketing budgets increased to 12 percent of company revenue in 2016, up from 11 percent in 2015. Fifty-seven percent of marketing leaders surveyed expect their budgets will increase further in 2017. Only 14 percent of marketers say they are bracing for budget cuts, but this is up from 3 percent just two years ago.

At Fusion Marketing Partners, we deal with lots of B2B companies and our experience echoes the Gartner research. Here are some observations about why marketing spend is on the rise and why you may be in a great position to justify a larger spend as you craft your 2017 marketing budget:

1.     Prospects and customers spend more of their time with marketing assets than sales assets. Studies range on the exact statistics, but most strongly point to the fact that prospects do a lot of their research online, prior to engaging with a sales rep. If you don’t have the right resources to guide them, you lose the prospect to the competitor.

2.     Throwing more sales reps into the mix is not solving the revenue challenge. You need a complete lead-to-revenue strategy that covers everything from creating initial awareness to closing deals.

3.     Marketing has accepted a wider range of responsibilities ranging from customer experience to revenue–generating systems. As Jake Sorofman, research vice president at Gartner stated, “Over the last several years, we’ve witnessed an expansion of the CMO mandate, from what was largely a promotional role to what is now often seen as the growth engine for the business. … In more than 30 percent of organizations, at least some aspects of sales, IT and customer experience now report into the CMO.”

4.     Smart marketing managers have learned how to prioritize spending on productive and measurable activities that tie into revenue. This ‘lead-to-revenue investment model’ makes the budget process more efficient and predictable. Read more about the top 10 sales and marketing metrics.           

Im often asked to advise companies on how to establish the correct marketing budget. In addition to the percentage of revenue described above, there are several other methods:

       Competitive Parity: With this method, you figure out what competitors are spending and then budget enough funds to keep up with, or surpass, the partner. The problem is, it’s usually difficult to find out what they are spending and their circumstances may be so different that a head-to-head comparison is not helpful.  

       Objective and Task: This is our go-to method. We set the objectives, identify the tasks necessary to achieve those objectives and then determine the budget necessary to complete those tasks.

       Lifetime Value (LtV): The LtV method works in scenarios where it is worth spending more to obtain a new customer because they produce so much revenue over the time they do business with you. This will often produce much higher spending scenarios than the more traditional and formulaic methods. For example, Salesforce.com spent $25.4 million to achieve its first $5.4 million in revenue. 

       What You Can Afford: Sometimes, your marketing spend is limited by the amount of money you have left over after other expenses — or the amount the CEO or CFO gives you to accomplish the mission.

       Lead-to-Revenue (L2R) Budgeting: With L2R, we establish the revenue targets and work backwards to determine how many opportunities, qualified leads and inquiries are needed to meet the revenue target. L2R is a highly effective way to make sure you spend the right amount on lead generation, but it is not so helpful when it comes to budgeting for other expenses like personnel, PR, website, etc. 

Regardless of the marketing budget methodology you use, it is important to start the process early enough in the planning cycle to ensure the right allocation. If you truly believe (and I hope you do) that marketing has a big impact on revenue, you are doing your company a favor by helping them invest in an area that will have many positive benefits downstream.

Improve Your B2B Marketing in 30 Minutes or Less

B2B Marketing Act NowYou are overwhelmed, I am overwhelmed – the whole darned world is overwhelmed. It seems there is so much required of each of us that we can’t find the time to get those big projects finished. But the good news is – there are many smaller actions you can take – in 30 minutes or less – that can individually or collectively have a big impact on your performance and your company’s results. Here are 20 such items.

  1. Obtain one (or more) customer testimonial(s).
  2. Call up a sales rep and really understand what is going on in his/her world. Better yet, call two.
  3. Write the introductory paragraph to the next great piece of sales collateral.
  4. Come up with a new and compelling offer.
  5. Call or email a strategic partner and get some joint marketing going.
  6. Figure out a strategy to add video and/or audio to your website and sales materials.
  7. Write a quick online customer survey to make sure you are on the right track.
  8. Improve your landing page performance by 10% or more by upgrading the copy, images or offer (perhaps all three?).
  9. Draft the outline for your next killer webinar.
  10. Tweak the copy on your best email promotion – with a goal of boosting response by 10%.
  11. Write the title and outline for your first or your next eBook.
  12. Evaluate your brand message/value proposition for differentiation and freshness.
  13. Figure out one way you can better support your company’s revenue goals.
  14. Write a memo to get budget authority for your next lead generation campaign.
  15. Come up with a theme for the next major social media outreach – perhaps one that will go viral.
  16. Write the first paragraph of your next blog (or the whole blog if you are really fast).
  17. Upgrade your metrics dashboard to best prove marketing’s contribution to revenue.
  18. Jot down three action items that can improve your website – from both an awareness and conversion perspective.
  19. Send a thank you note to a key customer, partner, vendor or colleague.
  20. Stop and ponder your good fortune – if possible, find a way to pay-it-forward.

Not all of these action items will require 30 minutes. Some will take you a bit more, some a bit less. But the point is, good marketing is not just about having a great overall strategy – it’s also about the daily smaller blocks of time – and how you can make these moments count. As I talked about in an earlier blog post, Actions Trump Ideas in B2B Marketing and Sales, we marketers are paid to make stuff happen.